Women Candidates Who Have Run for President
Hillary Clinton isn't the first woman in U.S. history to make a run for the presidency.
A Historic Candidate
Although it won't be official until the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, held July 25-28, Hillary Clinton, the former first lady, U.S. senator from New York and secretary of state, is the preemptive nominee for president for the Democratic ticket, a first in the history of the United States.
"Tonight's victory is not about one person," Clinton said in a speech addressing supporters following her wins in the June 7 primaries. "It belongs to generations of women and men who struggled and sacrificed and made this moment possible."
Clinton, the first to clinch the nomination for a major party, of course isn't the first woman in U.S. history to make a run for the presidency.
Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to seek the office of the presidency, and she did so five decades before women even had the right to vote. A leader of the women's suffrage movement, Woodhull in 1870 announced her campaign, running two years later under the ticket of the Equal Rights Party. Frederick Douglass was nominated as her running mate, and though there's no evidence he ever accepted the nomination Douglass is the first African-American ever nominated for vice president.
Woodhull's campaign never stood much of a chance, yet courted controversy. Just days before the election, she was arrested for obscenity for publishing the details of an affair involving a prominent minister, an act of protest against the double standard imposed by 19th-century America on marital relationships.
Belva Ann Lockwood
Belva Ann Lockwood was not the first women to run for president in U.S. history, but she was the first to have her name appear on official election ballots. An attorney by trade and activist in the women's suffrage movement, Lockwood ran twice, first in 1884 and again in 1888, on the ticket of the National Equal Rights Party. Her 12-point platform touched on a broad range of policy issues, including "foreign affairs, tariffs, equal political rights, civil service reform, judicial appointments, Native Americans, protection of public lands, temperance, pensions, and the federalization of family law," according to the U.S. National Archives.
Gracie Allen With George Burns
Gracie Allen's bid as a candidate for the Surprise Party, first announced on her radio show, wasn't exactly the most serious run for the presidency. The publicity stunt did have many of the hallmarks of a real campaign, however, including a cross-country whistlestop tour by train, stump speeches and even a political convention in Omaha. Allen never made it on the ballot, but did receive several write-in votes.
Margaret Chase Smith
Margaret Chase Smith holds the distinction of being the first woman elected to both the U.S. House of Representatives and later the U.S. Senate. With an eye to the executive branch, Smith became the first woman up for nomination for a major party's convention when she pursued the top spot on the Republican ticket in 1964. "I have few illusions and no money, but I'm staying for the finish," she proclaimed. "When people keep telling you, you can't do a thing, you kind of like to try."
In 1972, four years after being elected to the U.S. Congress, representing New York's 12th District, Shirley Chisholm set her sights on the presidency. Chisholm was the first woman to seek the nomination for the Democratic Party and the first black candidate for a major party.
Running on the slogan "Unbought and Unbossed," Chisholm never really expected to win the nomination, but instead sought to make a statement about American politics. "I stand before you today, to repudiate the ridiculous notion that the American people will not vote for qualified candidates, simply because he is not white or because she is not a male," Chisholm said at her campaign announcement.
Four years after her husband unsuccessfully attempted to oust President Bill Clinton from office, Elizabeth Dole, a former Transportation and Labor Secretary, made a bid to become the Republican nominee for president.
Although she led the race in several polls, her late entry into the race and fundraising disadvantage against other candidates compelled her to withdraw before the first primary. Two years later, she was elected a U.S. Senator from North Carolina.
Congresswomen Michele Bachmann from Minnesota threw her hat in the ring in June 2011 to become the Republican candidate to face Barack Obama in 2012. Bachmann was the first woman in history to win the Iowa Straw Poll, but could not garner enough support to come out on top in the Iowa caucuses, placing fifth with only 5 percent of the vote.
Green Party candidate Jill Stein has until now won more votes in a general election for the presidency than any other woman in history. In 2012, Stein secured 468,907 votes, or 0.36 percent of the total electorate. She announced last year that she will again seek the Green Party's nomination for the 2016 election.
In a nomination contest with 16 other candidates, Carly Fiorina was the only woman seeking to be the Republican presidential nominee for the 2016 election. The former Hewlett-Packard saw an uptick in support late summer 2015 following strong performances in early debates, but ultimately failed in her bid and withdraw on Feb. 10. She reentered the race in April as the vice presidential running mate for U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, a short-lived campaign that faded after a loss by Cruz in the Indiana primary.